Elizabeth Barrette (ysabetwordsmith) wrote,
Elizabeth Barrette

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Poem: "On Wings of Hope"

This is the fourth poem in the submerged Nebraska setting from the January fishbowl. It was inspired by prompts from whuffle, haikujaguar, and janetmiles; sponsored by janetmiles. The first poem in this set is "The Sugar Sea." To learn more about manta rays, the ancestors of one protagonist in this poem, I recommend "What is a ray?" and to protect them, see Manta Pacific Research Foundation.

EDIT 1/12/09: Everyone pretty much agrees that the offset version is legible, and distinguishes the two narrators better. This is now the official version of the poem.

On Wings of Hope

As a young Singer, I saw
my world broken
like driftwood battered
by waves.

As a young Sailor, I saw
my crewmates destroyed by demons
from the deep.
Only I survived, clinging to wreckage.

I became a Trader, exchanging
the tunes
that are our tools: songs to build,
songs to shape.

I became a Captain, leading
fierce forays against the demons, but
they cursed me, for I began
to see their black-winged shapes as beautiful.

How could I help but wonder if
the landlings
had trade and Traders too?
What then?

How could I help but wonder if
the demons had their own navies, and if
their Sailors, like myself,
sometimes lay awake wishing for peace?

When the storm came, I saw
the deathshadow
spill itself into the water, its landlings
sinking fast.

When the storm came, I saw
the demon flying beneath us through dark water,
but it was the waves, not the demon,
that overturned our boat.

The water surged around me
as I dove,
catching one on my back. I could save
only one.

The water surged around me
as I drowned, and then something hit me
hard in the belly, bearing me
up through the rushing waves into the air.

As fast as I could go toward the shore,
I went,
hoping it would be enough for the landling
to reach safety.

As fast as I could go toward the shore,
I flailed my way through the waves, struggled up
the rain-wrecked beach, battered
but not beaten. Still breathing. Because of a demon.

When the weather cleared,
I watched him,
unable to leave or look away.
How strange.

When the weather cleared,
I watched her, like a dark kite in the water,
graceful as a cloud.
I wondered why she had saved me.

On his shrimpy body, he wore things –
small things
and long thin things attached like remoras.
What for?

On her shadowy body, she had
markings of lighter and darker gray, and under
her wings she was pale as smoke.
She carried no tools, but then, how could she?

I sang to him, though I am a Trader,
and Song
no longer my business. Can even a landling
hear truth?

I sang to her, though I am a Captain,
and had no business consorting with the enemy.
Her songs were sweet and weird.
Can even a demon understand the beauty of music?

I do not care what my people say:
for my part,
I will not fight the landlings any longer.
They are people.

I do not care what my people say:
these are not demons, but strange people of the sea.
I will not fight them any longer.
And I will find out why they think they must fight us.
Tags: cyberfunded creativity, fishbowl, poem, poetry, reading, science fiction, writing

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